Dog diet: Yang Liwei boards China's first manned spacecraft Shenzhou 5 in 2003 - where astronauts had a canine diet
China's first man in space has revealed that the menu on his spacecraft included dog meat - to keep the astronaut's strength up.
Yang Liwei, who commanded the Shenzhou Five mission in 2003, revealed canine menu samples that were on-board his craft along with chicken and fish.
In his autobiography ‘The Nine Levels between Heaven and Earth’ he said: 'Many of my friends are curious about what we eat in space and think that the astronauts must have some expensive delicacies, like shark's fin or abalone.
'Actually we ate quite normal food, there is no need to keep it a secret,' he added, listing chicken, steamed fish and dog meat from Huajiang county in Guangdong.
Chinese nutritional experts recommend dog meat, especially in winter months.
Finding dog meat, bones and even skulls - they are boiled to make broth - in Chinese supermarkets, particularly in the north of the country, is by no means unusual.
Germans and Swiss were recently horrified to find that St. Bernard dogs - traditionally associated with rescuing avalanche victims in the Alpine regions of both countries - are now bred in China on special farms for their flesh.
The dogmeat menu was still in use last year, when Chinese astronauts conducted their first ever spacewalk.
If China has its way, it will be served when the country accomplishes its goal of a man-on-the-moon in 2030.
Animal rights campaigners in China were horrified at the revelations.
They believe dog consumption is the preserve of peasants and should not be promoted by people who are in effect the national elite.
'Yang Liwei is a role model for so many young people and he is one of China's greatest heroes,' said Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals Asia.
'We hope that he might recognise dogs as the heroes they are too: they found survivors after the Sichuan earthquake and protected people from potential terrorists during the Olympic games. Surely they deserve more.'
European astronauts do not have to resort to snacking on man‘s best friend.
One of Germany’s Michelin-star chefs now cooks for the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).
Harald Wohlfahrt, fifty-two year old chef of the prestigious Schwarzwaldstube Restaurant in Germany’s Black Forest, was recruited to spice up what was a down-to-earth menu.
Chef Wohlfahrt began revamping the tubed and tinned paste food about 18 months ago when he first learned that the astronauts were eating healthy but less tasty meals because of the special requirements of space.
Salt accelerates bone loss, vitamin D must be added due to lack of sunlight, and sauces can’t be used for fear of spills, which, in a weightless environment, could damage electrical equipment with potentially disastrous results.
Foods also need to be highly seasoned, because astronauts’ sense of taste is diminished in outer space.
Astronaut Frank De Winne gave Wohlfahrt’s new menu a taste test prior to his launch into space and gave the food an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Admittedly there was plenty of room for improvement.
Wohlfahrt tasted some standard astronaut fare before beginning his space food project. 'I felt sorry for the astronauts,' he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. 'It tasted like cat food.'
He now offers Swabian potato soup, braised veal cheeks with wild mushrooms and plum compote.